During the difficult economic conditions of postwar Germany, opportunities for education were not as abundant as they are today. But in spite of limited options, I always felt an eagerness to learn. I remember one day, while I was out on my bike delivering laundry, I entered the home of a classmate of mine. In one of the rooms, two small desks were nestled against the wall. What a wonderful sight that was! How fortunate those children were to have desks of their own! I could imagine them sitting with open books studying their lessons and doing their homework. It seemed to me that having a desk of my own would be the most wonderful thing in the world.
I had to wait a long time before that wish was fulfilled. Years later, I got a job at a research institution that had a large library. I remember spending much of my free time in that library. There I could finally sit at a desk—by myself—and drink in the information and knowledge that books provide. How I loved to read and learn! In those days I understood firsthand the words of an old saying: Education is not so much the filling of a bucket as the lighting of a fire.
I limit misbehavior by limiting options. Notice that I have no shelves. This discourages accumulating papers and encourages both elimination and immediate digital note-taking. When in doubt, I take a digital photograph of documents (I prefer this to a scanner, which consumes real estate)...
Constraints — a precursor to simplicity — aren’t always a bad thing. In fact, they’re often better than increasing options.
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